HOW could a water bill jump from a mere $2,694, in October, to more than $316,000 in February?
That is what has been puzzling Craig Vanriel ever since he received the bill for a whopping $316,523.70 from the National Water Commission (NWC) last week for the premises he and his parents occupy in Waterhouse, St Andrew.
Although admitting that the October bill was his last settlement, the man is adamant that there can be no valid reason for the massive increase in such a short time.
"Only me and my parents live there. There is no way my water rate can be so high. It is impossible. Where am I going to find that money to pay that huge amount?" a concerned Vanriel told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
The 'estimated' bill he received in February has a balance of $13,871.84, including current charges of $1,708.19 and a balance carried forward of $12,163 from the previous bill.
However, the bill received last week, which stated 'actual reading' and has a due date of March 13, shows a balance brought forward from February of $265,316.76 and current charges of $51,207.94.
"I am not sure how to tackle this. It is too much," he said, noting that he plans to contact the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to get their guidance on how to proceed.
"I have only called the Water Commission and I am going to the OUR to see what can be done about this. It is humans who monitor the computer, so they can't claim that this is a computer error," he said.
The meter is in the name of Samuel Salmon, who Vanriel says is his stepfather.
He explained that when the property was bought, some 10 years ago, there was a water bill that was left outstanding by the previous owners, and that bill of some $60,000 was paid in full before he and his parents were allowed to get running water.
Yesterday, the NWC maintained that the amount billed is for his water consumption at the premises.
The Commission's Corporate Communications Manager Charles Buchanan said preliminary checks have revealed that something is awry at the premises.
"It does appear that the customer has a leak. The meter has been relocated on a number of occasions and a number of visits have been made to the premises by our technical team and customer care representatives. It does appear that there is some issue with the premises," Buchanan said.
He however encouraged Vanriel to get in touch with the Commission to iron out the issue.
"I would advise that customer to visit a customer service representative and get an appointment to see how that issue can be resolved," he said.